UMBC CMSC641, Design & Analysis of Algorithms, Fall 1997

Course Description


Introduction to Algorithms, Cormen, Leiserson and Rivest. McGraw-Hill.


An undergraduate course on algorithms is a prerequisite for this class. At UMBC, the undergraduate course (CMSC 441) uses the same textbook and covers Chapters 1-5 (Big-O notation, recurrences and summations), Chapters 6-10 (Heapsort, Quicksort, "linear-time" sorts and linear-time median algorithms), Chapters 11-14 (hash tables and red-black trees), Chapter 16 (dynamic programming) and Chapters 23-26 (graph search algorithms, minimum spanning trees and shortest path algorithms). There will be minimal overlap in the material covered in the two courses. If your are not familiar with some of these topics, you must have enough preparation to review the material on your own. Note that the syllabus for the graduate comprehensive exam contains topics that are covered more thoroughly in the undergraduate algorithms course (e.g., solving recurrences).


Since this is quite likely to be the last algorithms course that you might ever take, the objective of this course is not to fill your brains with every algorithm that you would ever need. Instead, this course should prepare you to learn new algorithms --- either from the literature or by designing your own new algorithms. As such, the objectives of this course are:
  1. to master advanced algorithm analysis techniques
  2. to practice designing "new" algorithms
  3. to accumulate the background knowledge needed to read and understand algorithms published in research journals
  4. to develop the writing skills for clear and logical presentation of algorithms

Homework and Grading

Your performance in this course will be based upon weekly homework assignments, two take-home tests and the final exam. There will be a total of 11 homework assignments, but only the ten best homework scores will count toward your final average. These ten scores will count for 60% of your total grade. Two take-home tests (12% each) and the final exam (16%) make up the remaining 40% of your grade. The first take-home test is due on Wednesday, October 8; the second on Wednesday, November 12. The format of the final exam will be announced at a later date.

Homework Policy

Much of learning how to analyze and design an algorithm takes place outside the classroom. A very good way to learn the material is to work on the weekly assignments. While you are encouraged to discuss the homework problems with your classmates, you must write up your solutions on your own---i.e., without looking at other people's homework, other people's notes, your notes of other people's homework, your notes of other people's notes, etc., etc., and so forth. The difference between a homework assignment and a take-home test is that you are not allowed to discuss problems on a take-home test with anyone.

Some of the questions in the weekly assignments will be very hard. It is not necessary for you to complete every homework question in order to receive a good grade in the class. Although, this is certainly desirable. As a rule, questions on the take-home tests will be easier than the homework questions since each student is expected to be able to complete every test question without assistance.

In general, homework must be submitted when they are due. This allows for timely discussion of the solutions and for the graded assignments to be returned before the tests. As a concession to "real life," you may submit (without excuse) three assignments up to one week late without penalty.

Last Modified: 3 Sep 1997 20:43:12 EDT by
Richard Chang

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